Wherein I am reluctantly dragged against my will into the Pro-Impeachment Camp
This must be clearly understood. I have always been in the pragmatist camp when talk of impeachment rolls around, and I remain unabashedly in that camp. To me, Markos was and remains 100% correct in his arguments against the impeachment of the President:
1) the future is much more important than the past;
2) the American people elected us to fix this country, not to involve ourselves in mind-numbing partisan imbroglios;
3) The Democrats have for the next two years an opportunity to show the American Public what we stand for and what we are made of, and to frame ourselves for a change;
4) impeaching the President would only leave Cheney in his place--and impeaching both of them to install Pelosi would be a grave miscarriage of American Democracy.
On all these things, I have changed my mind not a whit. I remain a proud and unashamed pragmatist. Allow me to explain, therefore, my change of heart and newfound support of impeachment below the fold.
Arguments that justice must be done upon George Bush for his crimes against the constitution and against America hold little sway for me. "Justice" was quite publicly carried out against Saddam Hussein for his crimes against Iraq--but that hasn't made Iraq any safer, or relieved the pain of his crimes. Indeed, "Justice" is best done by carrying the country forward on a new path, with as much bipartisanship as progressive decency will allow, and with a minimum of partisan recrimination. On this, I have changed my mind not a whit.
Arguments that Bush must be removed from power as soon as possible in order to prevent further bloodshed and depradations also have little sway for me. Put Democrats in the presidency tomorrow, and the sands of Iraq will still swallow the blood of American soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians. Put Democrats in total control tomorrow, and the lobbyists and corporations will still own the reins of power for years as we fight to loosen their grip on members of our own party. Removing Bush from power tomorrow won't immediately fix any of the great problems our country faces; indeed, the congress was more important in many ways than the Presidency itself. On this, I have changed my mind not a whit.
Arguments that future Presidents must be warned that such behavior is unacceptable hold little sway; a future Democratic president will not usurp the powers that Bush has attempted--and a failed impeachment drive will do little to stop the next Republican president from trying the same.
Arguments that world opinion demands Bush's impeachment also carry little weight for me; with Bush's clear re-election in 2004, his impeachment in 2007/2008 with little time left to serve in his administration will serve only to show that Americans are feckless, short-sighted and recriminatory.
On the inadequacy of none of these arguments have I changed my mind a whit. The potential for Democrats to act positively to take this country in a different direction with policy initiatives and responsible government outweighs any of these possible benefits of impeachment in my mind.
It is with a heavy heart and extraordinary reluctance, therefore, that I too now take up the banner of impeachment. Even now, I hold that impeachment proceedings should not begin tomorrow. Or three months from now. Or six months from now. Not even necessarily a year from now.
There is no emergency demanding impeachment with deliberate haste. And Democrats MUST show their mettle by demonstrating their ability to pass bold and progressive policy initiatives that benefit the American people.
But impeachmeent it must be. The President leaves us no other choice.
The reason I have changed my mind on this issue stems, ironically, from the same source that gave rise to my late opposition of impeachment: pragmatism.
The fact is that George Bush's continued insistence on using contra-legal signing statements to justify increasingly outrageous activities has left Americans with any shred of respect for the law with their backs against the wall. As Kagro X so brilliantly states:
But as we've sailed past the 800 mark in terms of how many of these signing statements Bush has issued, and may well be on our way to 1,000 and beyond, they're beginning to take on an additional meaning, beyond the legal and practical. They're taking on a symbolic meaning, although it might actually be true that they were meant to have this meaning all along. And that symbolic meaning is that they demonstrate that Bush is reserving for himself the right to do anything. He just keeps planting stakes further and further out, noting well that nobody's really willing to set boundaries. Don't challenge me, he says, because I'll make you prove you can make it stick. That's how I measure power. If you can't physically restrain me from doing these things, you can't stop me.
Bush, you see, is playing a momentous and deeply consequential game of Constitutional poker with the Democrats. With every round and on every issue he continues to bluff the Democrats and up the ante--and he figures that the Dems care too much about keeping their newly won chips to ever dare call his bluff. He knows that when all is said and done, there's not a soul who can or will truly call his bluff without taking the issue all the way to an impeachment proceeding--and he believes wholeheartedly that Democrats would never truly carry it that far.
As I stated in my diary of two days ago, the Republicans in general and Bush in particular are like children playing a giant game of chicken with their parents--a game where they feel that they get to be as irresponsible as they want to be, and that the Democrats will be the adults, clean up the mess, and not carry matters to such an end that the American people suffer calamitously as a result.
Further, there's no reason to believe this pattern of behavior will not continue into the forseeable future. There is no reason to believe that he won't continue to up the ante. Laws against torture? Executive privilege. Anti-corruption reforms? I'll see fit to nominate whom I choose. Subpoenas? They don't apply to me.
Well, when a destructive person hell-bent on saving his own ass or taking everything and everyone down with him continues to bluff, threaten and up the ante, the only pragmatic thing to do is to call that bluff before the ante gets too expensive for well-meaning people to contemplate.
And Impeachment really is the only option left. This was really crystalized for me in a thread on Free Republic of all places, where a commenter ironically named "Founding Father" really laid out the bare bones of the matter in a thread on Bush's laughable plan to balance the budget by 2012:
Constitutionally speaking, the President doesn't have to spend money congress appropriates; the President, through his justice department doesn't have to enforce laws congress passes; the President, again through his justice department and other executive departments doesn't have to enforce any federal court ruling (remember Andrew Jackson), I could go on but you catch my drift...
[skip to later comment by same author]
reply to: However, the President refusing to enforce Constitutional laws isn't among those checks within the Constitution.
Sorry, I didn't realize I needed to point out the obvious, which is the President refuses to do so because he doesn't believe the law is constitutional and since he has equal standing with the other branches the judicial branch can do nothing and the legislative branch has only the impeachment/conviction option.
As batshit crazy and on the wrong side of the issue as he is, the guy is right: Impeachment is the final pragmatic check and balance on a President who behaves like an Emperor. To many of these people, it is the ONLY check or balance on such a president. Indeed, in the minds of Bush and his legal team, a President can literally get away with almost ANYTHING and it's not a problem (as Nixon said, "If the President does it, that means it's legal")--after all, if the Congress finds him to be out of control, they can always impeach him! That's the check and balance!
So what we have now is a President who figures it's okay to open your mail without a warrant--after all, who's to stop him? If Congress thinks it's such a bad idea, we'll just move to impeach, right? Because if we don't move to impeach, it shows we just really didn't care bad enough--or that we figure we've got more to lose than he does.
And like the childish, addictive, irresponsible criminal he is, he'll use the same logic to continue upping the ante, calling our bluff, and DARING us to do something about it.
And he gets away with it because he also knows that we are the adults. That we actually care about the country. That we don't WANT to waste the next six months in a bitter, partisan impeachment battle. That we care about doing more than just using the reins of power to shovel pork to our biggest contributors. That we care too much about our new majority to put it in jeopardy by possibly pissing off the voters. That we are pragmatic have too much to lose, in other words.
Well, THIS pragmatist has finally had enough.
I refuse to sit back and allow myself, my party and my country to be taunted, bluffed, and intimidated by a two-bit teenage criminal who figures that my political allies and I have too much forbearance, optimism, pragmatism and common decency to hold him to account.
If it were my adult kid, I'd cut him off and change the locks. If it were my dog, I'd give him away. If it were my employee, I'd fire him on the spot.
So though it pains me greatly to say it, Impeach the sumbitch. I don't care when. I don't care how. Figure out what it will take. Figure out what the public will support. Figure out when they will support it. Above all, figure out the fastest and least controversial way to get it done, while maximizing our opportunity to pass progressive legislation.
But call his bluff. He refuses to have it any other way. And he refuses to leave us--even the avowed pragmatists among us--any other choice.